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Born, Philadelphia, July 19, 1785. Died, New York City, March 22. i8^i. 

(From a Miniature in oil by the elder Jarvis, 1840.) 








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"// is not necessary for a citizen of the United States 
to have his faith stamped on his forehead. The name of 
freemafi is a sMfficie?it passport'' 

Extract from Noah's ' ' Travels in Europe and Africa.'" 

I know of no more opportune time than the present to 
emphasize the good work done by American citizens of 
Jewish faith. Wlien many of the leading newspapers of 
the country, both secular and religious, are more or less 
impairing the fundamental principles underlying our 
form of government and attacking the sacred rights of 
individual judgment and belief; when from the pulpit 
and rostrum are uttered words diametrically opposite to 
the spirit and genius of our institutions, and when per- 
sons clothed with the ermine degrade their judicial func- 
tions by opinions and decisions that breathe not of Amer- 
ican spirit, but that of ancient feudalism and the middle 
ages, it is high time to show by an account of the services 
of an American citizen of the ancient faith, what he 
wrought and how he fought for the elevation of all men, 
which naturally included his own co-religionists. Much 
has been said and written about the subjectof this sketch, 
but so far all is very incomplete, and, aside from the aim 
and object already quoted above, my hope is that some 
one having more time and greater facilities than myself 
will be impelled to write a book more complete and satis- 
factory, and thus furnish a biography of Noah, a story of 
patriotism, Judaism, heroism and philanthropy, all of 
which elements along with the characteristics of early 


American journalism, were so preeminently embodied in 
the life and career of this illustrious American citizen. 

For many of the incidents herein detailed I am in- 
debted to Judge J. J. Noah, of Washington, the son of 
Major Noah, himself distinguished as a jurist and public- 
ist of note. The portrait on the frontispiece of this 
sketch is from a miniature painted by the elder Jarvis, 
which is regarded as one of the most masterly produc- 
tions of that artist. 


Washington, D. C, January, 1897. 

Mordecai Manuel Noah. 

Mordecai Manuel Noah was born in Philadelphia, 
July 19, 1785, and died at New York City, March 22, 
1851, in his sixty-sixth year. He was the eldest son of 
Manuel Mordecai Noah, of Charleston, South Carolina, 
a patriot of the Revolution, and Zipporah Phillips 
Noah, the daughter of Robert Phillips of Philadelphia, 
one of the most prominent patriots of the Revolutionary 
period. Robert Phillips was also the father of Zelig- 
man Phillips and the grandfather of Henry M. 
and Altamont Phillips, distinguished as leading mem- 
bers of the Philadelphia bar. Henry M. Phillips was 
a representative in the Thirty-fifth Congress of the 
United States, which was the only political office ever 
held or accepted by him. Robert Phillips was also the 
grandfather of Commodore Uriah P. Levy, of the United 
States Navy. Mr. Noah's mother died at Charleston, 
South Carolina, and his father, in a fit of melancholia, 
consequent upon the death of his wife, disappeared with- 
out leaving a trace of whither he had gone and was 
mourned as dead.* 

* One of the most dramatic of the many remarkable episodes of 
Major Noah's life, was his discovery of his missing father. Years after 
the latters mysterious disappearance, when Major Noah was on his 
way to the Orient as United States Consul, he entered a restaurant in 
the city of Paris and was presently struck by the appearance of a soldier 


Thereupon the friends of the family caused the boy 
Mordecai, who was then but ten years of age, to be sent 
to his grandfather at Philadelphia. Realizing that his 
grandfather had a large family to support and educate, 
and being ambitious to provide for himself, and not be 
a burden upon his relatives, the boy apprenticed himself, 
with the consent of his grandfather, to a carver and gilder 
to learn that handicraft, and for the remuneration of his 
board and clothes he contracted to serve his master un- 
til he arrived at the age of twenty-one. 

Meantime he attended school for about a year, having 
among his classmates John and Stephen Decatur, of 
whom the latter subsequently attained eminent distinc- 
tion as a commodore in the United States Navy, but un- 
happily died, in 1820, from the effects of a wound received 
in a duel with Commodore Barron. Entering at once 
upon his apprenticeship, young Noah developed an in- 
satiate thirst for reading, and being unable to longer at- 
tend day-school, proceeded to educate himself at night at 
the old Franklin Library, then the rendezvous and resort 
of the great men of that era, whose habit it was to there 
meet and discuss the political issues of the day, Phila- 
delphia being then the national capital. The library was 
free to all, and here the youth came every night, with 
the permission of his master, ensconcing himself in an 
obscure corner and reading with all possible interest and 

in a distant corner of the room, dressed in the Continental uniform, 
blue coat, buff vest, short knee breeches, with his hair done up in a 
queue. Noah went up to him and greeted him in French ; the stranger 
replied in English, saying, "Are you not an American?" Noah said 
he was. Then the other replied " So am I. My name is Manuel 
Mordecai Noah. " "My God ! ' ' said the Major, * ' You are my father. ' ' 
And in this way father and son were again united. 


avidity such books as commended themselves to his taste. 
The librarians all knew him and kindly assisted him in 
every way to advance his studies. The prominent men 
who assembled nightly at the library were not slow to 
notice this lad, and watching him closely, observed 
that he was reading a class of literature far beyond his 
years. They questioned him, and ascertaining that he 
was a grandson of the patriot Robert Phillips, and an in- 
dentured apprentice, took an especial interest in him, and 
through the personal efforts of the distinguished finan- 
cier Robert Morris, procured the cancellation of his in- 
dentures and obtained for him an appointment as clerk 
in the Auditor's office, there being then but one auditor 
of the United States Treasury. Although a mere boy, 
he prepared the actuary tables of the eight per cent, loan, 
and in appreciation of his precocious efforts Congress 
voted him an extra compensation of $100 for his services. 
It may here be remarked that in his subsequent days of 
influence and distinction Major Noah was wont to men- 
tion to his friends and contemporaries that he remem- 
bered no more happy moment of his younger life than 
when he was paid this sum at the Treasury in Spanish 
milled dollars, wrapped them in an old bandanna hand- 
kerchief, took them home, and presented them to his 
venerable grandfather. 

Upon the removal of the national capital to Wash- 
ington, young Noah resigned his clerkship and accepted 
employment as a reporter at the sessions of the Penn- 
sylvania Legislature at Harrisburg. It was in this con- 
nection that he acquired his first experiences in jour- 
nalism, in which he afterward marked his career as 
probably the ablest and most influential American editor 
of his generation. The teachings of his grandfather, 


Robert Phillips, sank deeply into his heart and mind. 
He had been instructed that it was no less his first 
object in life than his constant duty to support the 
constitution and laws of his country, which guaranteed 
civil and religious liberty; that free America offered wel- 
come to all who should come to her shores, and that here, 
and here alone, was to be found that refuge which the 
Jews, persecuted throughout ages, had so long hoped and 
prayed for. It is not surprising, therefore, that the boy 
grew to manhood with reverence for his country and its 
liberal institutions. With this sentiment implanted in 
every bone and fibre, intensely American in all his hopes 
and aspirations, he realized that being a Jew he would 
be called upon to turn aside, if possible, the lance points 
of religious prejudice, so largely dominant throughout the 
world. The reflex of this prejudice was unfortunately 
apparent even in the United States, and although the 
early colonial Jews were undoubtedly all patriots,* and 
contributed their efforts and their means freely and in- 
deed lavishly to aid the colonies in their struggle for in- 
dependence, serving in the Revolutionary army and 
mingling their blood with that of their compatriots on 
many a hard-fought field, nevertheless, the inexplicable 
tide of religious prejudice was not thereby checked, but 
has flown on in currents more or less violent, even up to 
the present time. A few years prior to the War of 1812, 
during the exciting times when Great Britain claimed and 
enforced the right of search, which was submitted to by 
our people for quite a period, not, however, without pro- 
test, young Noah returned to Charleston, S. C, then the 

* This I have amply shown in the book entitled " The American 
Jew as Patriot, Soldier and Citizen," 1895, Phila., Levytype Co. 


largest and wealthiest seaport of the country. He was 
surprised to find that the mercantile community of that 
city was averse to war with Great Britain because of its 
embargo upon commerce, and that those patriots who 
were ready to risk their lives for the honor and standing 
of their country were sadly in the minority. He at once 
entered the political arena as an advocate of war and the 
maintenance, at all hazards, of American rights on the 
high seas, and his vigorous and patriotic communications 
to the Charleston press over the signature of " Muley 
Malack," in which he denounced the craven spirit of 
those who would sacrifice the honor of their country and 
the liberty of its citizens to the mere greed of money, and 
advocated war in maintenance of American liberty and 
independence among the nations of the earth, brought 
young Noah into conspicuous prominence. As a con- 
sequence of his activity in this cause he became particu- 
larly obnoxious to the dominant element, through the 
influence and machinations of which quite a number of 
advocates of war with Great Britain had been driven out 
or practically assassinated through the " code duello." 
He spoke fearlessly and eloquently from the stump and 
rostrum, and received insults innumerable, which he re- 
sented on all occasions. Various attempts were made to 
sacrifice him to the duello, and indeed, to make away 
with him, but he escaped them all, and it finally became 
understood and accepted that at all times and in any 
way he was ready to fight for his principles. Three duels, 
in one of which he killed his opponent, were sufficient to 
give him the reputation of a man of courage, and there- 
after his enemies hesitated to attack him. His advocacy, 
in conjunction with that of other brave and earnest South 
Carolinians, of a policy of resistance against Great Britain, 


created a revolution in public sentiment, and South Caro- 
lina was finally carried in favor of the proposed war. 

In the fall of 1812 President Madison appointed Major 
Noah Consul of the United States at Riga, Russia, then 
the most important commercial port on the Baltic Sea. 
This preferment being declined by Noah, he was ap- 
pointed, in 1813, Consul at Tunis, with a special mission 
to Algiers. He was then but twenty-eight years of age. 
The vessel in which he embarked at Charleston, S. C, 
was captured in the British Channel by an English war- 
ship on the night of July 3, 1813, and he was detained 
several weeks as a prisoner of war. In view, however, 
of his diplomatic capacity he was released and ordered 
out of the country. The commanding officer of the ship 
which captured him, Sir Thomas Staines, had been sta- 
tioned, before the war, near New York, and was familiar 
with American affairs. On the morning after the capture 
he approached Major Noah, saying that he remembered 
that the Fourth of July, the natal day of American inde- 
pendence, was dear to every American heart, and express- 
ing his great regret that the Major was then a prisoner 
on an enemy's vessel. " I have occasion," said Sir 
Thomas Staines, " to leave the ship. Here are the musi- 
cians, and my cabin is at your disposal. I have ordered 
a stoup of wine to be broached for your men. Enjoy 
yourselves and celebrate the Fourth of July with perfect 

This gallant act has never before been publicly re- 
corded. The American prisoners celebrated the Fourth 
of July under the auspices of their captor, and the name 
of the gallant Sir Thomas Staines should be handed down 
to American posterity and engrossed in American history 
with all honor and respect. When Major Noah was con- 


fined in the English prison at Portsmouth, where the 
American prisoners were immured, he brought his com- 
patriots the first news of the capture of the Chesapeake 
and the tragic death of the heroic Lawrence, who, with 
his last breath, uttered the words that have made him 
immortal in American history, " Don't give up the ship!" 
Great stalwart Americans fell upon each other's necks 
and wept like children at hearing this ill news. '* Thank 
God," said they, " Lawrence died like a hero and there 
was no loss of honor." 

Proceeding by the way of Spain to his post of duty at 
Tunis, Major Noah was soon engaged in the work for 
which he was specially commissioned, to ransom the 
American prisoners then held in slavery by the Alge- 
rians. The negotiations were protracted, difficult and 
tedious, but success finally attended his efforts, and he 
had the pleasure and satisfaction of freeing his fellow- 
citizens from the galling yoke of Algerian slavery. At 
the same time, however, he was accused of exceeding his 
instructions through having ransomed more enslaved 
Americans than his letter of instructions warranted. He 
resented this charge, asserting that the liberty of an 
American citizen could not be measured by a mere money 
or verbal limitation, and that it was his duty to free every 
American thus held regardless of such limitations. His 
political enemies at home attacked him mercilessly, and 
his drafts for the moneys expended for ransom were per- 
mitted to go to protest. He was finally recalled upon the 
miserable pretext that, being a Jew, his religion was re- 
garded as incompatible with his consular position at 
Tunis. Here he met Commodore Stephen Decatur for 
the first time since they were schoolmates together at 
Philadelphia, and it so happened that Decatur presented 


him with his letter of recall without knowing its contents. 
Major Noah's vindication, however, was thorough and 
complete ; his action in ransoming the American captives 
in Algiers formed the subject of exciting discussions in 
Congress and was approved by his countrymen. Finally, 
his drafts were honored, and a balance of nearly $13,000 
declared in his favor. It need hardly be remarked that 
the pretext given for Major Noah's recall was and 
remains a blot upon the history of American civiliza- 

"""Major Noah was greatly respected by his diplomatic 
associates who represented other nations in Tunis. On 
one occasion the Consul of Germany was set upon and 
attacked by a detachment of Janizaries, led by a son of 
the Bey. He fled for protection to the American Consul, 
who gave him effective asylum. The Janizaries threaten- 
ingly demanded the surrender of the German Consul, but 
Major Noah raised the American flag and defied them. 
In resisting the attempt to force an entrance to the con- 
sular building, Major Noah drew his sword and cut down 
the son of the Bey. Reinforcements were sent, and the 
delivery of the German Consul insolently demanded by 
force of arms. Seeing that resistance would be useless, 
he surrendered his sword and tore from his coat the gold 
stripes which indicated his diplomatic office, saying that 
if the German Consul were arrested, he would also be ar- 

* In the Appendix to this sketch there will be found letters from hia 
colleagues at Tunis ; also letters from Thomas Jeflferson, John Adams, 
and others, proving what high estimate all of these men placed upon 
the character and ability of Major Noah, and also evidencing, if any 
such evidence were necessary, what keen-sighted statesmen Jefferson 
and Adams were. Indeed, the letter of Adams indicates a degree of 
liberality broader than has generally been credited to him. 


rested with him and share his captivity. Accordingly, 
the two Consuls were led away by their captors, but after 
a few hours detention were released, the Bey fearing that 
Decatur, then commanding the American fleet in the 
Mediterranean, would speedily avenge the wrong. Major 
Noah was cordially commended by his fellow-consuls for 
his courage and determination. The fact is, the Bey of 
Tunis would gladly have had him made away with. This 
hostility doubtless arose from the fact that Major Noah 
embraced every possible occasion to denounce the pay- 
ment of the yearly tribute of $200,000 which, singular 
as it may appear from the present standpoint of Ameri- 
can power, our Government then paid the Tunisian gov- 
ernment for the privilege of permitting our merchant 
marine to navigate the Mediterranean Sea along the Bar- 
bary coast, then infested with piratical Algerian craft. 
The idea of paying this tribute was abhorrent to Major 
Noah, who insisted that this money were better expended 
in building war-ships to attack and batter down the 
strongholds of these barbarous nations, in accordance 
with his motto, " millions for defense, but not one cent 
for tribute." This motto, afterward so completely Amer- 
icanized, had its true origin with Major Noah. The la- 
mented "Sunset" Cox, in a speech delivered in the House 
of Eepresentatives, shortly before his death, on the efforts 
tlien being made to recognize or incorporate "God" in the 
Federal Constitution, as an amendment thereto, remarked, 
" That Mr. Noah had put a quietus upon that proposition 
as far back as 1813." He, however, did not give the par- 
ticulars, but as they are highly interesting they may here 
be narrated in full, the more particularly as they are im- 
portant not only to the student of constitutional history, 
but because they relate to an episode which forms a grand 


link in the chain of events that mark the development of 
our institutions. 

At the period in question England was at war with 
both the United States and France. One day an Ameri- 
can privateer came into the harbor of Tunis with three 
English East Indiamen loaded with valuable cargoes, as 
prizes. These prizes and cargoes were turned over to 
the American consul to sell at auction. The British 
Minister protested against such sale on the ground of a 
clause in the treaty with England which provided that 
no Christian power should sell a British prize or its cargo 
in an Algerian port. Major Noah admitted the bona 
fides of the stipulation, but contended that under proper 
interpretation of national law the United States could not 
be held to be a Christian nation within the meaning of 
the treaty and hence was excepted from the inhibition. 
To prove his contention he exhibited the Constitution of 
the United States with its manifold provisions against 
sectarianism and religious tests, and finally cited the Joel 
Barlow Treaty with Turkey, of 1808, ratified by the 
United States Senate, which declared that the United 
States made no objections to Musselmans because of their 
religion and that they were entitled to and should receive 
all the privileges of citizens of the most favored nations. 
This argument was sustained by the Be}^ and the prizes 
were accordingly sold in Tunis, and thus became estab- 
lished a principle of international law which has never 
since been challenged. Major Noah used to remark, jocu- 
larly, in discussing this question that the twenty per cent, 
of proceeds of sale paid to the Bey, as port dues, was 
doubtless a prominent factor in influencing his decision to 
allow the prizes to be sold, notwithstanding the protest of 
the British Minister. But be that as it may, the proposi- 


tion was never thereafter questioned by England, nor, in- 
deed, by any other nation. Therefore, the United States, 
in which no union of church and state exists, and no 
rehgious tests of any kind are recognized, is not a 
Christian nation within the meaning of the Consti- 
tution, and the framers of that great bill of rights, de- 
claring civil and religious liberty, built even better than 
they knew. Mordecai Manuel Noah, an American Jew, 
was the first to carry these provisions of the constitution 
of his country into practical effect from the standpoint of 
international law. 

Returning home in 1819 and taking up his residence 
in New York City, he published an interesting volume 
recounting his " Travels in England, France, Spain, and 
the Barbary States," which is said to have been the 
first book of travels from the pen of an American citi- 
zen. In this volume is narrated the story of his ransom 
of the American prisoners held in slavery by the Alger- 
ians; the recital of the unjust treatment received by 
him at the hand of James Monroe, then Secretary 
of State, and Richard Rush, Attorney-General; also 
his correspondence concerning Judaism with Jeffer- 
son, John Adams and others. Entering the field of 
journalism, Major Noah founded the National Advocate. 
He was elected High Sheriff" of the city and county of 
New York in 1822. At that time the law permitted 
imprisonment for debt, and the yellow fever epidemic, 
then raging in New York, having broken out in the 
Debtors' Jail, then situated in the City Hall Park, he 
threw open the doors of the prison and urged the poor 
debtors confined therein to save themselves. They quickly 
fled, and Major Noah was thereby made responsible for 
their debts. He paid over two hundred thousand dollars 


on this account, which completely impoverished him. A 
bill to reimburse him to that amount was introduced into 
the New York Legislature, but was defeated through the 
opposition of Martin Van Buren. This loss was never 
made good to him, and he required of his children that 
they should never make any demand for it. As this 
nation, as is well known, owes the heirs of Haym Solo- 
mon a large amount of money, so the State of New York 
and, indeed, humanity at large, owes Major Noah a debt 
which money can never discharge. The citizens of New 
York, without regard to party, appreciating the situation, 
gave him a benefit at the old Park Theatre at which one 
of his patriotic dramas, "The Siege of Tripoli," was 
produced. The theatre was crowded from pit to dome 
with the most prominent residents of New York and the 
receipts netted several thousand dollars. The theatre 
took fire after the performance and burned to the ground, 
and Major Noah gave the entire proceeds to the actors 
who had lost their wardrobes in the conflagration. 

The National Advocate was discontinued and Noah then 
began the publication of the New York Enquirer, which 
was subsequently merged with the Courier and became 
the Courier and Inquirer, in partnership with Col. James 
Watson Webb, under the firm name of Noah & Webb. 
This partnership was dissolved in consequence of a 
political difierence between Noah and Webb, the latter 
declaring in favor of maintaining the United States Bank, 
while Major Noah sustained President Jackson in remov- 
ing the government deposits from that institution. The 
story of this exciting episode of Jackson's administration 
is in various prints, notably that of '' Benton's Thirty 
Years in the United States Senate." President Jackson 
appointed Major Noah to the position of surveyor of the 


port of New York, the collector being Samuel Swartout, 
who subsequently defaulted and fled the country. 

In 1834 Major Noah established the Evening Star., 
which became the leading Whig organ of the country, 
and supported William Henry Harrison for President in 
1836. Harrison was defeated by Van Buren, but in 1840 
he was again nominated and elected over Van Buren. In 
this contest, that of ''Tippecanoe and Tyler too," Mr. 
Noah took a prominent part for Harrison. William H. 
Seward, then Governor of New York, appointed Major 
Noah Judge of the Court of Sessions, a position which 
he filled with eminent dignity until he resigned because 
he felt himself incompetent to sit upon the trial for 
forgery of a certain member of Congress whom he had 
known from boyhood. He had known the parents of the 
prisoner, good old Quakers, and the idea of having to 
sentence the son to the penitentiary in case of conviction 
was so abhorrent to his kindly nature that he preferred 
to resign from the l)ench. The unfortunate man was 
subsequently convicted and sentenced, and died in the 
Sing Sing Penitentiary. In 1842 Noah established a 
daily paper called The Union., which was discontinued as 
a daily after the expiration of President Taylor's ad- 
ministration, and then became a weekly periodical under 
the title of '•^Noah's Sunday Times and Messenger^' 
which he edited up to the time of his death. This 
journal obtained a large circulation and was the most 
influential weekly of its time. 

In 1820 Noah undertook a project to re-establish the 
Jewish nation and form a Jewish state, purchasing Grand 
Island, on the Niagara River, near BuflVilo, (now a cele- 
brated summer resort), on which to locate Jewish emi- 
grants. He erected at White Haven, on the eastern side 



/of the island, opposite Tonawanda, a monument of brick 
^ and wood with the inscription "■ Aararat, a city of refuge 
for the Jews, founded by Mordecai Manuel Noah in the 
month of Tishri, 5586 (September, 1825) and in the Fif- 
tieth year of American independence." The proposed city 
of refuge was dedicated with impressive ceremonies ac- 
cording to the Jewish rites and all went well until Major 
Noah discovered and realized that the Jews, being domicil- 
iaries of all nations, could not be assembled on this far-off 
land at the mere sound of the shofar, and that it would take 
years and a vast amount of money, even if successfully 
directed, to gather them from all corners of the earth, 
and to colonize them on American soil. He found, more- 
over, that the assimilation of peoples speaking different 
languages, with different modes of thought, different 
habits, customs and ideas, could not be accom- 
plished by merger upon the single plane of a 
common religion. The project was therefore aband- 
oned as impracticable. Major Noah's main idea 
in thus seeking to establish this city of Jewish refuge 
was that it would bring the persecuted Jews to a new 
life and a new home, where they and their posterity 
would enjoy civil and religious liberty and also contribute 
to the benefit of the United States by inducing an immi- 
gration which would be of great commercial advantage. 
The American Republic was then hardly more than an 
experiment and the European press was constantly as- 
serting that our government by the people was a chimera, 
and could not be realized or maintained for any consider- 
able length of time. To bring the Jews to American 
shores, with their habits of obedience to law, their great 
commercial experience and general advancement in the 
elements of civilization, Major Noah conceived, would 


prove of inestimable benefit to the American Republic, 
then passing through its stage of experimentation. 

Major Noah wrote, in addition to his book of travels, a 
large mass of miscellaneous addresses and essays, political 
and religious, some of which were reproduced in a volume 
called "Gleanings from a Gathered Harvest." He also 
delivered various lectures on Judaism and published a 
translation of the Book of Jashar, one of the Books ex- 
cluded from the King James edition of the Bible. He 
likewise was the author of many plays, among which 
were the "■ Fortress of Sorrento," " Paul and Alexis," 
known afterwards as " The Wandering Boys," " She 
would be a Soldier, or The Plains of Chippewa," 
" Marion, or The Hero of Lake George, " The Grecian 
Captive " and " The Siege of Tripoli." In the palmy 
days of American patriotism, now seemingly in decadence, 
the theatres all over the country always produced Major 
Noah's patriotic plays on the evening of the Fourth of 
July, the favorites being " She Would be a Soldier" and 
" Marion, the hero of Lake George." 

Major Noah's life, from his youth to his latest years, 
was pure and one of great mental and physical activity. 
He was a prominent participant in all public affairs of 
his day and time, associating intimately with the greatest 
of Americans, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Clay, Cass, 
Calhoun, Webster, Benton, Silas Wright, and the host of 
shining lights which in that period illumined the pages 
of American history. But of all traits which most dis- 
tinguished his character and marked his career, the 
greatest was his universal, wide-spread philanthropy 
and benevolence. The wretched and distressed who 
came to solicit his aid found his presence as freely as the 
richest and most powerful. Li this particular he was 


ever true to the grand teachings and precepts of Judaism. 
His charity knew no bounds and he had no regard for 
money except for the necessities of hfe and the relief it 
afforded others who were in distress. No one knows and 
no one can ever know the extent of these charities, for 
they were sealed hermetically in the recesses of his big, 
manly heart. As simple as a child, he was the embodi- 
ment of moral and physical courage. " Suaviter in modo 
fortiter in re!' His benefactions were not confined to 
Jews, but were outspread to the world ; artists, actors, 
editors, scholars, artisans, and any one struggling in the 
world's madding crowd were taken by the hand and 
helped by Major Noah. Necessarily, he was frequently 
imposed upon, but he never became weary of well-doing. 
He was not a believer in human depravity and hence was 
but too often deceived. 

It would burden these pages to detail even a tithe of 
those acts of Noah's benevolence which became known 
generally to the public. He was beloved by the Christian 
clergymen, because of his broad humanitarianism and his 
purity as a man. No one thought more highly of him 
than the eminent Catholic divine, the late Bishop Hughes, 
who frequently sought his advice. His very presence, 
tall, broad-shouldered and erect, inspired respect. His face 
literally beamed with the benevolence that irradiated 
his features. There are men of prominence now living, 
as well as many that have passed away, both Jews and 
Christians, who owed their success in life to Noah's assist- 
ance and advice. His name and fame were heralded 
throughout the world, and the Jews in and about Pales- 
tine looked to him as their friend and apotheosized him 
as their benefactor. '^Omnium gentitim, facile pmncepsr 
Indeed, they made him, by decree of the Sanhedrin, a 


prince of the House of Israel, or legitimate successor to 
the rulers, and this was one of his inspiring motives in 
his scheme for colonization. 

His humor was keen and human. A laughable inci- 
dent thereof may be given. When coaches were the only 
public means of going from one part of the city of New 
York to the other, he was one day in one of these public 
conveyances which was, as usual, crowded. A lady hailed 
the coach from the street ; it stopped, and in came a woman 
of portly figure. The Major promptly said: "My dear 
madam, you can take a seat on my knee," which she as 
promptly did and occupied the seat the whole distance, the 
Major in the meantime talking very pleasantly and jocu- 
larly with the lady, to which she, in equally good humor, 
responded. Everyone in the stage was convulsed with 
laughter, but the real joke only became apparent when, at 
the end of the journey, the Major very gallantly extended 
his arm to the lady and accompanied her away, and it was 
discovered that the lady was the Major's wife. 

Another incident of his humor may be related. While 
High Sheriff of the County of New York a citizen, small 
in stature, felt himself agrieved by some official conduct 
on the part of the Sheriff, and attempted to cow-hide 
him. Major Noah being a very large, strong man, 
wrested the cow-hide from his assailant and picking him 
up bodily, he carried him on his shoulder and deposited 
his burden in the jail of which he was the custodian, to 
the amusement and amid the laughter of everybody. 
His wit was proverbial. When elected High Sheriff, some 
dissatisfied and bigoted persons remarked that it had come 
to a pretty pass for a Jew to hang a Christian. '' Pretty 
Christian, forsooth, who deserves hanging," retorted Major 
Noah, and this rejoinder silenced the objectors. 


Mr. Evart A. Duyckinck, editor of the Literary World, 
and author of the "Encyclopedia of American Literature/' 
now deceased, published an article in the Literary World, 
under the caption of " Which was the Jew and Which 
was the Christian ? " Briefly stated, this article narrated 
the story of himself, a poor young man of literary ability, 
stranded in New York City, who sought the assistance of 
two leading editors in an endeavor to sell his manuscript. 
He was rudely repulsed by one man, and as a last resort 
applied to the other without the remotest hope of success. 
Upon explaining his errand, and making known his great 
pecuniary necessities, this latter asked him to be seated, 
took his manuscript, turned his back and glanced through 
it. Finally he tied the manuscript carefully with a piece of 
tape, and turning to the young man, said : " You certainly 
possess literary ability of a high order and deserve suc- 
cess. Daily newspapers cannot publish this character of 
literature for want of space, but be careful of your manu- 
script; bring it to me early next week, and possibly I 
may find a purchaser for it." The young man, not pre- 
pared for this surprise, expressed his gratitude and left 
with a happy heart. When he reached his humble lodg- 
ing he untied the manuscript and from it fluttered a 
twenty dollar bill. It was indeed a god-send, and he 
then understood why the editor had tied the roll of 
manuscript so carefully. He came back at the appointed 
time, and sure enough, the manuscript had been sold, net- 
ting $50, which, it afterward proved, the editor had paid 
out of his own pocket. From that day the young man's 
success in the field of literature was assured. The article 
closed as follows : " Which was the benefactor, the Jew 
or the Christian ? Nine hundred and ninety-nine out of 
a thousand would say that it was the Jew who repulsed 


and the Christian who was the benefactor, yet in this in- 
stance it was the Christian who repulsed and the Jew 
was the benefactor. That Jew was Major Mordecai Man- 
uel Noah, and the young man he then befriended is now 
the editor of this paper and author of this article." 

On one occasion, a cold, bitter, wintry morning. Major 
Noah was walking up Broadway above Chambers Street, 
then the location of the large retail dry goods stores. 
Standing on the pavement, before one of these estab- 
lishments, was a little girl, clad in rags, and crying. 
The tears were freezing on her wan and pallid cheeks. 
"Great heavens!" ejaculated Major Noah, as he glanced 
at the waif, "here is a child freezing to death in the 
streets of a Christian city, and no one succors." Seizing 
the child by the hand he rushed into the store, crying, 
" Shame upon you, gentlemen, to let this poor child 
perish at your very door! Take her to the stove and 
permit the poor creature to warm herself!" Every- 
body knew Major Noah, and his word was a command. 
Clerks took the child in hand and after she had been 
warmed sufficiently, Major Noah said : " Order a car- 
riage; I will take the child home with me." A large 
crowd had meanwhile collected, the carriage came, and 
just as he started to take the child to it, a well-known 
New York sporting character came through the crowd, 
and, placing his hand on Major Noah's shoulder, said : 
"You do more than your share of this sort of thing. 
Let me take the child. While I am a gambler, you know 
me well, and know also that I possess an ample fortune. 
I promise you on my word of honor as a man I will take 
this child, rear her tenderly, away from all evil, and be 
her benefactor and father. Please let me have my wish." 
Major Noah looked at him for an instant, and realized 


that he was thoroughly in earnest. Placing the child's 
hand in his, he said : " Sam Suydam, I will take your 
promise, and God help you if you break it. This is a great 
responsibility, and I commit this child to you as you de- 
mand." The child was taken off in the carriage by Suy- 
dam. He was true to his word ; he raised the child as his 
own, as he had promised. She grew to beautiful woman- 
hood without knowing or suspecting that she had been 
rescued from death in the streets of a so-called Christian 
city, nor that her benefactors were Major Noah and Sam 
Suydam, the gambler. Major Noah kept himself well ad- 
vised of the well-being of the child until his death, and 
when she married a reputable gentleman, Suydam gave 
her a wedding portion of $40,000. How little the world 
knows of what transpires in it ! Here was the misunder- 
stood Jew, and with him the ostracised gambler, perform- 
ing a great act of real charity, for which neither claimed 
credit, both concealing from public knowledge what they 
had done, but He on High has registered this as well as a 
thousand other acts which make the whole world kin. 

Major Noah was President of the Jewish Charity Or- 
ganization of New York City, and when that was merged 
into a B'nai B'rith lodge he was its first President. His 
house was a constant asylum ; the poor Jews, arriving 
here, unable to speak the English language, sought him 
before all others. He fed and clothed and secured credit 
for them, starting out hundreds peddling over the coun- 
try. It is stated that only in two instances was he ever 
left to pay the debt for which he had become security, 
and these defaulters never showed their faces to him 
again. Several of his beneficiaries were thus enabled to 
begin the foundations of great fortunes. To recount 
all those whose success in the various pursuits of life was 


largely due to Major Noah would be to make a list whose 
name is legion. He was a man among men, a Jew among 
Jews, an honor to his country and his race, but, above all, 
he was an American, proud of his nativity and attached to 
the free institutions of his country. The Constitution was 
his shibboleth — the very breath of his nostrils. What was 
nearest his heart was that every Jew, nay, indeed, every 
Christian in the land, should appreciate the great value of a 
government, the keystone of whose arch is civil and re- 
ligious liberty. 

Major Noah was the last Jew that was buried within 
the limits of New York City. The epitaph graven on his 
tomb was written by his friend and follower, Cornelius 
Matthews, one of the foremost of the national literati, a 
man whom Major Noah had assisted to climb the ladder 
of journalistic fame. It reads as follows : " The warm 
hand is cold, the kindly eye is dim, the generous heart has 
ceased to beat, for beneath this monument lie the mortal 
remains of Mordecai Manuel Noah, born in Philadelphia, 
July 19, 1785, died in New York, March 22, 1851." 

As an interesting fact it may be noted that at the 
wedding of Major Noah's father. General Washington at- 
tended and signed the Kesuba. Washington was a warm 
friend of Robert Phillips, and Major Noah's father served 
temporarily as an aide-de-camp on his staff. 

Major Noah, as is abundantly proven in his editorials, 
foresaw the Civil War, and advocated the abolition of 
slavery by laws, gradual in their effect; and had he, in 
common with other farseeing statesmen, been heeded, the 
Civil War with all its horrors would have become im- 


The letter of recall which Commodore Stephen Deca- 
tur handed to Major Noah and which is alluded to in the 
sketch, read in part as follows : 

Department of State, 
April 25, 1815. 
Sir : At the time of your appointment as Consul at 
Tunis it was not known that the religion which you pro- 
fess would form any obstacle to the exercise of your con- 
sular functions, in consequence of which the President has 
deemed it expedient to revoke your commission. 

Your obedient servant, 

James Monroe. 

On the above letter Noah comments as follows in his 
book of Travels : 

"I paused to reflect on its contents. I was at a loss to 
account for its strange and unprecedented tenor. My 
religion an object of hostility? I thought I was a citizen 
of the United States, protected by the constitution in my 
religious as well as my civil rights. My religion was 
known to the Government at the time of my appoint- 
ment, and it constituted one of the prominent causes 
why I was sent to Barbary. If, then, any unfavorable 
events had been created by my religion they should have 
been first ascertained, and not, acting upon a supposition, 
upon imaginary consequences, have thus violated one of 
the most sacred and delicate rights of an American citi- 
zen. Admitting, then, that my religion had produced an 
unfavorable effect, no official notice should have been 


taken of it; I could have been recalled without placing 
on file a letter thus hostile to the spirit and character of 
our institutions. But my religion was not known in 
Barbary ; from the moment of my landing, I had been in 
the full possession of my Consular functions, respected 
and feared by the government, and enjoying the esteem 
and good-will of every resident. What injury could my 
religion create? I lived like other Consuls ; the flag of 
the United States was displayed on Sundays and Christian 
holidays ; the Catholic Priest who came into my house to 
sprinkle holy water and pray, was received with defer- 
ence, and freely allowed to perform his pious purpose ; 
the bare-footed Franciscan, who came to beg, received 
alms in the name of Christ; the Greek Bishop, who sent 
to me a decorated branch of palm on Palm Sunday, re- 
ceived in return a customary donation; the poor slaves, 
when they wanted a favor, came to me; the Jews alone 
asked nothing. Why, then, am I to be persecuted for 
my religion ? Although no religious principles are 
known to the constitution, no peculiar worship connected 
with the government, yet I did not forget that I was 
representing the United States. What was the opinion 
of Joel Barlow when writing a treaty for one of the 
Barbary States? Let the following article, confirmed by 
the United States Senate, answer: "Article 11th. — As 
the government of the United States of America is not, 
in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, as it has, 
in itself, no character of enmity against the laws, religion, 
or tranquility of Musselmans; and as the said states 
never have entered into any war, or act of hostility 
against any Mohamedan nation, it is declared by the 
parties, that no pretext arising from religious principles 
shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony exist- 


ing between the two countries." If President Madison 
was unacquainted with this article in the treat}^ which, 
in effect, is equally binding in all the States of Barbary, 
he should have remembered that the religion of a citizen 
is not a legitimate object of official notice from the gov- 
ernment; and even admitting that my religion was an 
obstacle, and there is no doubt that it was not, are we 
prepared to yield the admirable and just institutions of 
our country at the shrine of foreign bigotry and supersti- 
tion? Are we prepared to disfranchise one of our citi- 
zens to gratify the intolerant views of the Bey of Tunis? 
Has it come to this, that the noble character of the 
most illustrious republic on earth, celebrated for its 
justice, and the sacred character of its institutions, is to 
be sacrificed at the behest of a Barbary pirate? Have 
we then fallen so low ? What would have been the 
consequences had the Bey known and objected to my re- 
ligion ? He would have learned from me, in language 
too plain to be misunderstood, that whoever the United 
States commissions as their representative, he must re- 
ceive and respect, if his conduct is proper; on that sub- 
ject I could not have permitted a word to be said. If 
such a principle is attempted to be established it will lay 
the foundation for the most unhapp}^ and most dangerous 
disputes. Foreign nations will dictate to us the religion 
which our officers at their courts should profess. Now, 
after having braved the perils of the ocean, residing in a 
barbarous country without family or relatives, supporting 
the rights of the nation, hazarding my life from poison 
and the stiletto, I find my own government sacrificing my 
credit, violating my rights, insulting my feelings and the 
religious feelings of a whole nation. Oh, shame! shame!! 
The course which men of refined or delicate feelings 


should have pursued, had there been grounds, was an 
obvious one. The President should have instructed the 
Secretary of State to have recalled me, and to have said 
that the causes should be made known to me on my re- 
turn. The letter that I received should never have been 
written, and above all, should never have been put on 
file. But it is not true that my religion either had or 
would have produced injurious effects. The Bey of 
Algiers had appointed a Jew his minister at the 
court of France ; another consul at Marseilles ; an- 
other at Leghorn. The Treasurer, the interpre- 
ter, the Commercial Agent of the Bey at Constanti- 
nople, are Jews. In the year 1811 the British govern- 
ment sent Aaron Cordoza, of Gibraltar, a most intelligent 
and respectable Jew, with a sloop of war to Algiers to 
negotiate some important point connected with com- 
merce. He was received with deference and succeeded. 
The first minister from Portugal to Morocco was Abraham 
Sasportas, a Jew, who formed a treaty and was received 
with open arms. Ali Bey, of Tunis, sent as ambassador 
to London Moses Massias, the father of Major Massias, who 
is at present serving in the army of the United States. 
Innumerable instances could be produced where the 
Musselmans have preferred employing a Jew on foreign 
missions, and had any important dispute arisen requiring 
power and influence to adjust, my religion should have 
been known, and my success would have been certain ; 
but I had sufficient power and respect, more than have 
ever been enjoyed by any Consul before me, and none 
who succeeds me will ever possess a greater share. It 
is not necessary for a citizen of the United States to have 
his faith stamped on his forehead; the name of freeman 
is a sufficient passport, and my government should have 


supported me — should have defended my rights — and 
should not have themselves assailed them. There was 
something insufferably little in adding the weight of the 
American government, in violation of the wishes and in- 
stitutions of the people, to crush a race of which many 
had fought and bled for American independence, and 
many had assisted to elevate those very men who had 
thus treated their rights with indelicate oppression. Un- 
fortunate people, whose faith and constancy alone have 
been the cause of so much tyranny and oppression, who 
have given moral laws to the world and who received for 
reward opprobrium and insult. After this what nation 
may not oppress them ?" 

" That the subject of religion should ever have com- 
manded the official notice of the Government of the 
United States cannot fail to create the greatest surprise, 
when a reference is had to the Constitution of the United 
States, and equally so to the enlightened state of the 
times. In the war for independence the Jews were 
unanimous in their jealous co-operation, and we find them 
holding a high rank in the army, and fighting for liberty 
with a gallantry worthy of the descendants of Joshua, 
David and the Maccabees. After the adoption of the Con- 
stitution we see them on the benches as judges, in the 
legislatures as members and assisting the government in 
gloomy periods to regulate and strengthen the financial 
system. In all the relations of life as fathers, husbands, 
and citizens, I persuade myself that they yield to no sect, 
and they have ever been distinguished for their liberal 
sentiments towards every denomination of Christians. 
In the late war* we find many Jews in the ranks as 
soldiers and holding commissions. We hear of them 

* War of 1812. 


wounded severely in the battles at the north, and 
gallantly supporting their country in the south. Surely, 
it is not too much to expect that under all these circum- 
stances the officers of government will conform to the 
wishes of the people and treat them with a delicacy be- 
coming freemen. 

I herewith subjoin copies of letters addressed from 
three Presidents of the United States to me, in acknowl- 
edgment of an historical discourse respecting the Jews. 

Copy of a letter from Thomas Jefferson, Esq., dated, 

MoNTiCELLO, May 28th, 1818. 

Sir, — I thank you for the discourse on the consecration of the 
Synagogue in your city, with which you have been pleased to favor 
me. I have read it with pleasure and instruction, having learnt from 
it some valuable facts in Jewish history which I did not know before. 
Your sect, by its sufferings, has furnished a remarkable proof of the 
universal spirit of religious intolerance inherent in every sect, dis- 
claimed by all while feeble, and practiced by all when in power. Our 
laws have applied the only antidote to this vice, protecting our re- 
ligious as they do our civil rights, by putting all on an equal footing. 
But more remains to be done, for although we are free by law, we are 
not so in practice; public opinion erects itself into an inquisition, and 
exercises its office with as much fanaticism as fans the flames of an 
Auto da fe. The prejudice still scowling on your section of our re- 
ligion, although the elder one, cannot be uufelt by yourselves; it is to 
be hoped that individual dispositions will at length mould themselves 
to the model of the law and consider the moral basis on which all our 
religions rest, as a rallying point which unites them in a common in- 
terest ; while the peculiar dogmas branching from it are the exclusive 
concern of the respective sects embracing them, and no rightful subject 
of notice to any other; public opinion needs reformation on that point, 
which would have the other further happy eflect of doing away the 
hypocritical maxim of " Intus id libet, foris id moris." Nothing, I 
think, would be so likely to effect this, as to your sect particularly, 
as the more careful attention to education, which you recommend, and 
which, placing its members on the equal and commanding benches of 


science, will exhibit them as equal objects of respect and favor. I 
salute you with great respect and esteem. 


M. M. Noah, Esq. 

Copy of a letter from James Madison, Esq., on the same 
subject, dated, 

MoNTPELiER, May 15, 1818. 

Sir, — I have received your letter of the 6th with the eloquent dis- 
course delivered at the consecration of the Synagogue. Having ever 
regarded the freedom of religious opinion and worship as equally belong- 
ing to every sect, and the secure enjoyment of it as the best human pro- 
vision for bringing all either into the same way of thinking, or into that 
mutual charity which is the only proper substitute, I observe with plea- 
sure the view you give of the spirit in which your sect partake of the 
common blessings aftbrded by our Government and laws. 

As your foreign mission took place whilst I was in the Administra- 
tion, it cannot but be agreeable to me to learn that your accounts have 
been closed in a manner so favorable to you. And I know too well the 
justice and candor of the present Executive to doubt that an official 
preservation will be readily allowed to explanations necessary to pro- 
tect your character against the effect of any impressions whenever ascer- 
tained to be erroneous. It was certain that your religious profession 
was well known at the time you received your commission, and that, in 
itself, could not be a motive in your recall. 


Copy of a letter from John Adams, Esq., dated, 

QuiNCY, July 31, 1818. 

Sir, — Accept my best thanks for your polite and obliging favour of 
the 24th and especially for the Discourse inclosed. I know not when 
I have read a more liberal or a more elegant composition. 

You have not extended your ideas of the right of private judgment 
and the liberty of conscience, both in religion and philosophy, farther 
than I do. Mine are limited only by morals and propriety. 

I have had occasion to be acquainted with several gentlemen of your 
nation, and to transact business with some of them, whom I found to be 


men of as liberal minds, as much honor, probity, generosity and good 
breeding, as any I have known in any sect of religion or philosophy. 

I wish your nation may be admitted to all the privileges of citizens 
in every country of the world. This country has done much. I wish 
it may do more, and annul every narrow idea in religion, government 
and commerce. Let the wits joke ; the philosophers sneer ! What then ? 
It has pleased the Providence of the ' ' first cause, ' ' the universal cause, 
that Abraham should give religion, not only to Hebrews, but to Chris- 
tians and Mahometans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world. 

(Signed) JOHN ADAMS. 


Additional Extracts from Noah's Book of Travels. 

" The following letters were written and transmitted to 
me, prior to my leaving Tunis, by the public function- 
aries in that kingdom. Although they served to accom- 
paii}^ the passports which were necessary for me to have 
in passing through Europe on my return home, still, I 
can consider them in no other light than private com- 
munications. I have no permission, nor can I possibly 
obtain it, from those gentlemen, to give these letters to 
the world. The consuls, however, were acquainted with 
every public measure of mine of any importance ; and my 
domestic character was not unknown to them. It is to 
their benevolence I now appeal for forgiveness in presum- 
ing to take the freedom I do with their names. 

Copy of a letter from Richard Oglander, Esq., his Bri- 
tannic Majesty's agent and Consul-General, near the Bey 
and Regency of Tunis, dated, 

September 19, 1815. 

My Dear Sir, — I hasten to acknowledge the receipt of the letter 
with which you honoured me this morning, for the purpose of acquaint- 
ing me with your intended departure from this place, with the first 
convenient opportunity. 

I flatter myself you will be persuaded this intelligence to me, as I 
doubt not it will be to the rest of your colleagues and friends here, is 
most unwelcome, and occasions rae very sincere regret ; for no one, I 
assure you, my dear Sir, can entertain a more lively sense, or true 
esteem, for your many valuable and amiable qualities than I do. 
However, at the same time that I must be allowed, in common with 
the rest of your friends, to express my regret at your approaching de- 


parture, inasmuch as it will occasion us the loss of an honorable and 
estimable colleague, yet I cannot but congi-atulate you, on your being 
about to quit this miserable country, the embroils of its court, &c. 

I beg you will accept my most cordial good wishes for your prosperity 
and happiness, and for a safe and pleasant return to your native coun- 
try ; and that you will believe me I remain, with the highest esteem 
and regard, 

My dear Sir, your most faithful and obedient servant, 


With regard to the passport which you desire, if you will do me the 
favor to send me a draft of such a one as you think will be useful to 
you, I will take care to have it prepared for you without loss of time. 

To Major Noah, 

Consul-General of the United States of America. 

Translation of a note from the Chevalier Devoise, Con- 
sul-General and Charge d' Affairs for France, dated, 

Tunis, September 19, 1815. 

My Dear Mr. Noah, — Never have I delivered a passport more 
against my inclination than the one which I have the honor herewith to 
enclose, because it announces that you are going to leave us, when I 
had promised myself to spend many agreeable moments in your society. 
Scarce has our acquaintance commenced when you depart and leave me 
nothing but regret. Nevertheless, I must wish you a good voyage, and 
all the happiness you merit. Permit me to add the expression of my 
attachment and most distinguished consideration. 

I have the honor to be, &c. 

(Signed) DEVOISE. 

Translation of a note from Don Arnoldo Soler, Consul- 
General of his Catholic Majesty in Tunis. 

My Dear Sir, — Enclosed I remit yon the passport you desire. 
Although the opportunity enables me to demonstrate my disposition to 
comply with your request, it is, nevertheless, painful to be separated 
from a colleague and friend so estimable as yourself 


Until I have the satisfaction to reiterate, in person, the sentiments 
of my sincere esteem, I pray God to preserve you many years. 

Tunis, September 20, 1815. 

To Major Noah, 

Consul General of the United States. 

Translation of a letter from the Chevalier de Martino, 
Consul-General of his Majesty the King of the Two 

Tunis, September 20, 1815. 

My Dear Friend, — I have been extremely surprised to hear by 
your letter that you were determined to leave Tunis. Only the cir- 
cumstance of my intending to do the same in a few days, makes me 
feel less unhappy by the absence of a friend, a colleague, and so agree- 
able a neighbor. Your stay in this place, although short, was sufficient 
to give the highest opinion of your talents, and penetration in the ex- 
ercise of your office. Be assured we all appreciate your merits. Your 
government certainly ought to listen to the voice of justice, and I do 
not doubt but that my expectations will be accomplished. I wish you 
a prosperous voyage, and hope to see you in my country, where I shall 
be able to give you proofs of my frieudship and gratitude. Adieu, my 
friend ; remember me always, and rest assured that I shall be forever 
your sincere friend. 


Mr. Noah, 

Consul of the United States. 

Copy of a letter from Andrew C. Gierliew, Esquire, his 
Danish Majesty's Consul-General. 

Tunis, September 19, 1815. 
Need I tell you, my highly esteemed friend, how sincerely I am 
afflicted at your departure ? My good Mr. Martino, too, will leave me 
S03n, and than I shall be alone, quite alone, in this unhappy country. 
Bat I cannot otherwise than highly approve of your firm, manly, and 
honorable conduct, after what has passed. I always esteemed your 


character, and it is, and will be a consolation to me in this dreary 
place, where honor, virtue, and character are the most shocking vices 
a mortal can possess, to have gained such a friend, I hope for life and 
wherever we shall live, as you, my most valued Mr. Noah. Be then 
as happy, my most sincerely esteemed friend, as you certainly deserve, 
and as I wish you from all my heart ; and let us meet soon again in a 
less unhappy country, where virtue, honor, and manly open character, 
are not vices. We shall always meet as friends, and we will dare to 
say that we lived and acted like men of honor. Remember me as I 
shall always remember you. Be a friend of my friends, as I shall 
always be of yours, if they resemble you. Be a friend of my country, 
as I always was of yours. I send you the passport you require. It is 
an honor for me to give it to you. 

Your sincerely devoted friend, 

(Signed) GIERLIEW. 
M. M. Noah, Esq., 

Consul of the United States. 

Extract of a letter from Richard B. Jones, Esq., Con- 
sul of the United States at Tripoli, dated, 

July 31, 1815. 

I shall always consider it my duty to communicate frequently and 
freely my sentiments, my opinions, and conduct, to the representatives 
of our country, whenever an occasion presents ; but that duty becomes 
a pleasure in addressing you, sir, who have displayed a zeal and firm- 
ness unequalled in defence of our rights; reasoned wisely, and acted 
courageously; and who has beguiled many of my tedious moments in 
Tripoli by your friendly and invaluable correspondence. 

Be assured that in me you will always find a person disposed to go 
every length to serve my country and countrymen; and if we can, by 
our mutual efforts, serve the common cause, we shall not only have 
effected the object of our mission, but enjoy the pleasing satisfaction of 
having performed our duty when we stood alone. 


As already stated, Major Noah was charged with being 
short in his accounts. The following letter from the De- 
partment of State, January 14, 1817, will conclusively 
prove the falsity of the accusation. 

Department of State, January 14, 1817. 

Sir, — Your account as Consul of the United States at Tunis has 
been adjusted at this Department in conformity of the opinion of the 
Attorney-General of the 30th of December last, of which you have a 
copy; and a balance of five thousand two hundred and sixteen dollars 
fifty-seven cents, reported to be due you will be paid to your order, at 
any time after Congress shall have made the necessary appropriations. 
A sum of one thousand six hundred and sixty-four dollars, besides a 
charge of thirty- five per cent, loss on the disbursement of your agent 
at Algiers, is suspended, for reasons mentioned in the account, of 
which you have been apprised. 

I am, sir, respectfully your obedient servant, 

(Signed) S. PLEASONTON. 
Mordecai M. Noah, Esq. 

The comments on the above by Major Noah are ex- 
tremely interesting and are as follows : 

" Thus ended my connection with the Government, 
and thus fell to the ground the charge " of going beyond 
orders ; " nothing, then, remained of the official charge 
but my religion, a subject which I had reason to believe 
the President would have reconciled in a suitable man- 
ner, but which, after three years' delay, has not com- 
manded his attention. 

" If I have occupied too much space in this work with 
recapitulating my official concerns, the reader will bear 


iu mind that this is the first attempt since the adoption 
of the Constitution of the United States to make the re- 
ligion of a citizen the objection to the possession of 
office ; a principle so foreign to the Constitution, so much 
at war with the genius and disposition of the people, and 
so dangerous to the liberties of the country, that citizens 
cannot be insensible to the new and dreadful features 
which it exposes ; none can hear with indifference this 
measure of the Government, and none will turn a deaf 
ear to the representations of an individual who has sus- 
tained an injury. Governments have a natural propen- 
sity to encroach upon the rights of citizens, and if those 
rights are worthy of being preserved, the utmost caution 
should be used to guard them with a vigilance that never 
slumbers. If a letter such as I received in Barbary had 
been written by order of a sovereign, presuming that a 
king could do such a wrong, I would have submitted to it 
without a murmur, knowing the tenure by which I held 
my office ; but my fellow-citizen, the President, to disfran- 
chise me from holding the office of Consul at Tunis when 
I am eligible to the station which he holds, cannot be 
viewed but as an assumption of power neither known or 
tolerated. Nothing is easier than to establish a principle 
in governments and nothing is more difficult than to de- 
stroy this principle when it is found to be dangerous. 
My letter of recall has become a document on file at the 
Department of State, which hereafter may, without the 
present explanations, go to disfranchise a whole nation. 
I felt it to be my duty to clear up this affair, and as I 
caused my country to be respected abroad, it was not 
anticipating too much when I claimed a reciprocal respect 
and protection from the Government. 

" I had heard it rumoured that Colonel Lear was the 


prominent cause of that letter having been written to 
me ; he is now dead, and I have only to express my 
astonishment at the extraordinary and mysterious influ- 
ence which he exercised over the Administration. I, 
however, subsequently gave Mr. Monroe an opportunity 
to do that justice which I flattered myself he was dis- 
posed to do, by requesting that I might be restored to 
an appointment of equal rank ; but no notice was taken 
of my application. I had no objections to make. The 
conferring of appointments is a power correctly vested 
in the Executive ; if he thinks proper to exercise that 
right in accordance with his own feelings, in advance- 
ment of his own views, in support of his own attach- 
ments or prejudices, it may be lamented for the sake of 
the public service, but cannot be prevented; the check 
in the Senate is all that the Constitution provides ; still 
it is expected that the Executive, chosen for a transitory 
period by the people, will in all cases consult what is 
most acceptable to the people and creditable to the 

'' It is not necessary for me to say that Mr. Monroe is 
emphatically an honest man. I measure men by the 
aggregate of their virtues and vices — all are liable to 
error — many pertinaciously adhere to their measures 
though they may be manifestly erroneous ; and such is 
the imperfection of our natures, that when a wrong is 
doae, intentionally or accidentally, a second wrong is fre- 
quently added in confirmation of the first if complaint is 
made or clamour heard. Still, with these errors, the bal- 
ance is greatly in favor of the President for past services, 
sincere attachment to country and strict integrity ; he 
has his weak points like other men. When these do not 
affect the public service oc go to establish dangerous doc- 


trines, they are not necessary objects of inquiry; but re- 
curring to the first principles of our Government, there is 
nothing which will tend more securely to preserve our 
liberties than freedom of speech and the press, a scrutiny 
into public measures, and a firm but respectful tone to 
men in power. 

" Mr. Monroe regretted the steps which he had pur- 
sued towards me — there was an idea floating on his mind 
that I had not been well treated, but he onl}^ regretted 
it as it affected him; he had no consideration for my 
feelings, for my rights or character ; he would have been 
pleased to have arranged the affair in a manner mutually 
agreeable, but I had not presented myself with that 
sumissive tone, with that "bondsmen key and bated 
breath " that he probably expected ; he said I threat- 
ened to appeal to Congress ; he should have been proud 
to have seen a citizen thus anxious to support his rights 
and character, and he should have aided, not opposed me, 
not bent the power of government to crush an individual. 

" I have said this much in proof to political opponents, 
that I am under no obligation to Mr. Monroe, that my 
support of the Administration is grounded on principle, 
on nobler motives than personal favours, and as long as 
he is in the Administration, and his measures are calcu- 
lated to promote the honour and prosperity of our country, 
so long will I support him. I have no favours to ask or 
prejudices to indulge; I have considered it my duty not 
to labour under suspicions or insinuations, and thus have 
endeavoured to explain them. 

" ' The evil which men do lives after them, 
The good is oft interred with their bones.' 

" The subject of , our piiblie credit abroad is of material 


importance to the preservation of our national character, 
interest and rights. An erroneous idea prevails in the 
Goverment that the protest of a bill of exchange drawn 
by an officer on a foreign station cannot impair the pub- 
lic credit, and if a doubt exists as to the power of the 
officer or his instructions to draw upon the Government, 
his bills are protested without ceremony and without any 
intention to affect his credit or injure his prospects. This 
is subjecting the nation to loss, to injury of credit, and a 
charge of bad faith ; and while our coffers are overflow- 
ing, while our means are more than ample to meet every 
public exigency, our foreign credit will be on the worst 
footing, and our officers will be backward in affording in- 
dispensable facilities to the Government. It is of less con- 
sequence if payment of bills is suspended, which are 
drawn in the United States, for the parties being on the 
spot can always explain ; but this advantage is not pos- 
sessed by an officer on a foreign station — his bills may be 
received and his advices lost; a just and liberal construc- 
tion of power and authority should always prevail, if not 
on behalf of the officer, then on behalf of the nation, on 
behalf of our character and credit." 



Major Noah's father, Manuel Mordecai Noah, died at 
New York in 1825, and was buried in the old Jewish 
Cemetery on Oliver Street. His headstone now forms a 
portion of the street wall on William Street which was 
opened through to Chatham Square about 1850. Major 
Noah's ancestors were originally refugees from the 
Spanish Inquisition, and included the families of Nunez 
and Machado. One branch of the family found refuge 
in France, which gave asylum to the Jewish fugitives 
from Spain ; another branch located in Holland, which 
country also received them kindly ; and still another 
branch located in England. The French refugees took 
the name of Noel, and a descendant of that branch was 
Minister of Public Instruction under the provisional 
government following the abdication of King Louis 
Philippe. Major Noah's ancestors emigrated to the 
American Colonies in 1733 with Governor Oglethorpe, 
settling at Savannah, Georgia, then part of the Carolinas, 
and their names are found in the archives of that city 
among the first settlers. It is stated as a tradition that 
one of the female members of the emigrating family, 
then very aged, had both thumbs broken and lacerated 
from the effect of the thumb-screw, having been thus 
tortured when a girl by the inquisitors. 

When Major Noah visited London, in 1813, as a 
paroled prisoner of war, he accidently met, at a theatre, 
a young British officer, whose remarkable likeness to the 
Noah family attracted his attention. Upon introducing 
himself to the officer he discovered his name to be Noel, 


and that he was his cousin. In 1831 Lady Amelia Noel, 
another cousin, then one of the maids in waiting upon 
Queen Charlotte, visited Major Noah, at New York, and 
passed several weeks in America. 

The Machado family were of noble extraction, their 
immediate ancestor having been a Grandee of Spain, 
under the Moorish Kings, when the Jews of that period 
were the leaders in sciences, letters and the arts, and 
contributed largely, as is attested by history, to the 
grandeur of Spain under the reign of the Moorish Kings. 
That period produced Maimonides, the greatest Jewish 
law-giver of the age, and one of the trio of Israelites 
named in order of greatness as marking successive 
epochs — Moses of old, Moses Ben Maimon and Moses 
Mendelsohn. Samuel Noah, of Virginia, a first cousin of 
Major Noah, was graduated from the Military Academy 
at West Point in the class of 1806, and distinguished 
himself by gallantry during the war of 1812. At the 
time of his death, in 1873, at the ripe age of ninety, he 
was by many years the oldest surviving graduate of West 
Point. John Moss, of Virginia, who was the first pri- 
vate secretary of President John Tyler, was also a 
first cousin of Major Noah, his mother having been a 
sister of Major Noah's father. 

Major Noah was the president of the " Old Bachelor's 
Club" of New York City, an organization composed 
mainly of prominent gentlemen, the ^ite of the old 
Knickerbocker families, and which, in its day and time, 
was the foremost social organization of that metropolis. 
The shibboleth of this club was positive and perpetual 
celibacy. Judge of the consternation of its membership 
when, in 1826, its president married Miss Rebecca Esther 
Jackson, a Jewess renowned alike for her amiable 


qualities and personal beauty. The club at once dis- 
banded and was never reorganized, many of its leading 
members concluding to follow the matrimonial example. 

The fruit of this union was six sons and one daughter, 
Manuel M., Jacob J., Robert P., Zipporah, Daniel J., 
Henry and Lionel J. Noah. Of these only Jacob J., Robert 
P., and Lionel J. survive. The eldest son, Manuel M., 
was a journalist and author of considerable reputation, 
whose field of literary success was at San Francisco, Cali- 
fornia, where, for twenty years, he was the chief editor 
of the Alta California. 

Jacob J., Robert P. and Lionel J. Noah are lawyers 
and counsellors of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, the former resident at Washington, and the two 
latter at New York City. Henry Noah resided in South 
Carolina and was prominent in the Republican control of 
that State, where he held the office of Collector of U. S. 
Internal Revenue for several years. He was a delegate 
to the Republican National Conventions of 1872, 1876, 
1880 and 1884. He served in the War of the Rebellion 
as an ofilcer of the Thirty-seventh New York Volunteers. 

Zipporah married Mr. Charles L. Lawrence, a merchant 
of New York City. Both she and her husband have re- 
cently deceased. Daniel J. died in boyhood from the re- 
sults of an accidental injury. 

Jacob J. Noah located in Minnesota when the terri- 
torial organization was formed, and filled acceptably vari- 
ous judicial and legislative preferments. In 1857 he de- 
clined the nomination for Delegate in Congress to accept 
the position of Clerk of the Supreme Court of the State, 
to which ofiice he was elected by a large majority. He 
served during the war as an officer in the Second Minne- 
sota Infantry, the regiment which contributed so largely 


to the military fame of Gen. George H. Thomas in win- 
ning the first victory of the Union arms, the battle of 
Mill Springs, Ky. 

After the war he located in Tennessee, where he was 
foremost among the leaders of the reconstruction move- 
ment and the adoption of the free State Constitution of 
1865. He was appointed by Governor Brownlow one of 
the Attorneys-General and Chancellors of the State, and 
as Attorney-General successfully prosecuted the trial 
of Judge Frazier, who was impeached for attempting 
judicially to prevent the assembling of a quorum of 
the Tennessee Legislature, convened to ratify or reject 
the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the 
United States. Judge Noah holds the Medal of Honor 
conferred by the famous Seventh Regiment of New York 
for long and faithful military service, besides the insignia 
of the Society of the Army of the Cumberland, Grand 
Army of the Republic, and other organizations of like 
military character. At present he is a member of the 
U. S. Board of Pension Appeals, which, under the direc- 
tion of the Secretary of the Interior, passes judicifilly as 
the court of last resort upon all appeals from the action 
of the Commissioner of Pensions in granting or rejecting 
claims for pensions and bounty lands. He is prominent 
in political, Masonic and journalistic circles at Washing- 
ton, and a member of the famous ''Gridiron Club." 

The career of Robert P. Noah has been remarkably 
adventurous. He served in the Mexican War as a mere 
youth, and went to California with Colonel Stevenson's 
regiment of occupation, which was dispatched to San 
Francisco around Cape Horn. He accompanied Gen. 
George B. McClellan, then a Captain of Engineers, to 
Vancouver at the time of the boundary dispute with 


Great Britain, and assisted in locating and surveying the 
boundary line between the United States and the British 

Upon the breaking out of the Crimean War he joined 
the British forces as a volunteer aide-de-camp to Lord 
Raglan, and served throughout that memorable campaign, 
receiving a score or more of medals and decorations, con- 
ferred for conspicuous bravery upon the survivors of that 
war. In 1857 President Buchanan appointed him U. S. 
Naval Agent at Rio Janiero, which position he held until 
1862, when the naval depot there was abandoned in con- 
sequence of the Civil War. Upon the defection to the 
Confederacy of Richard Kidder Meade, then our Minister 
to Brazil, who hauled down the American flag, young 
Noah took possession of the Legation building and United 
States property, re-hoisted the flag of his country, and 
sought to arrest Mr. Meade for treason ; the latter, how- 
ever, managed to escape. 

Returning to the United States, Noah studied law, 
was admitted to practice, and, for ten years, was one of 
the Corporation Attorneys of New York, preferring that 
position to a seat in Congress, the nomination for which 
he declined in 1882, although such nomination was then 
equivalent to an election. 

Lionel J. Noah studied law with Mr. Henry Morrison, 
of New York, a leading lawyer of the Jewish faith, was 
admitted to practice, and has always followed that pro- 
fession, declining to hold any political or other office. 
He has attained reputation as a "case" and office lawyer. 

2 imm 3 


Center for Judaic Studies 

E335.N73 1897 

Wolf, Simon, 1836-1923. 

Mordecai Manuel Noah; 



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